Dear [Decision Maker],
On April 6, 2016, a small group of students shouted down Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat as he spoke at San Francisco State University (SFSU), a publicly-funded California institution of higher learning. Entering the hall with megaphones, protesters overwhelmed the mayor while calling for an "intifada" and chanting "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." University police and school officials did nothing as the situation escalated, and eventually the mayor and the Jewish student organization that sponsored him were bullied off the stage.
The protestors' disruption was designed to silence the voice of someone they oppose. And that is the exact opposite of the open, honest, and fair environment California has fostered for generations. Their aggressive tactics were successful--and SFSU students were denied the opportunity for an open, honest discourse. Sadly, this was not an isolated event.
In 2010, then-Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren faced a similar incident at the University of California, Irvine, which resulted in legal charges against a number of students. A trial court ruled that the students had violated the law and had abused the First Amendment. A March 2014 Orange County Superior Court (appellate) ruling upheld the judgment that free speech is not a license to disrupt or silence ANY voice on California's campuses.
Many universities and colleges across California and across the country have faced similar assaults based on hatred and bigotry. The actions and tactics of such groups should serve as a wake-up call to all California university leaders and government officials. Because for far too long, we have witnessed a rise in hate speech on campus. While we respect those who disagree with the policies of the State of Israel, we cannot accept this thinly veiled anti-Semitism.
Dialogue and discourse is essential, but it can only be effective when all sides do so with respect.
We call on you to:
1) Directly and unequivocally denounce such intimidation and incitement
2) Publicly remind our fellow citizens that free speech is not a right reserved only for the loudest, most brazen among us. It is the natural right of every individual--even those with whom we passionately disagree, and
3) Develop a statewide plan to protect and restore the rights of free speech on every
California campuses should be a place where students can debate issues of national and international importance in a way that is open, honest, and fair. A place where ALL sides can find common ground or respectfully and civilly disagree. A place where students enjoy the right to hear all views and respect all people who express them. California's universities have upheld this value for generations--and we must work together to ensure they are protected for generations to come.
Thank you for your consideration--and for your leadership to give everyone the voice they deserve.
[City, State ZIP]